BIRDS CAN BE SQUARE TOO #10 – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

BACKYARD BIRDIES IN WILD ABSTRACTION (AND THE NUMBER ISN’T IN ORDER, EITHER)

It was a sunny afternoon and my camera was ready. I was ready. Were the birds ready? That is always the question. As for light, see that hint of golden sun on the trees and the birds? That is the reflection of the late afternoon winter sun. Photography is all about light.

I take pictures every day if there are active birds on the feeders. It’s a timing issue and I have to hope it isn’t the exact same group of birds that seem to actually live on the feeders. When I see enough interesting birds or types of birds, I try sneaking up on them and hope they won’t hide or fly away. I think they are laughing at me as they fly into the woods.

Flying: the bird in front is a Tufted Titmouse and the bird in the back is a woodpecker, either a downy or a hairy.

Last week, I dumped the flat feeder and the very damaged wire feeder. I got a smaller feeder with smooth sides and a rim for birds to hold onto. It is designed for smaller birds. I already owned a finch feeder, but I’d never bought food for it. I had Owen put up a third hook and invested in a small bag of finch food.

A Goldfinch on the finch feeder

It took about 72 hours for the birds to discover the new feeders. For a few days, there were almost no birds. On Sunday, I woke up and looked at the feeders and they were empty. I don’t mean that they needed filling. They were 100% empty, down to the last seed.

Woodpecker and Titmouse

I filled everything up and waited. The Goldfinches are back and so are the woodpeckers. The Cardinals have come home, though they refuse to sit still while I take their picture. I think they should show some appreciation, but they aren’t here as my friends. They just want to eat. I still think they could at least let me take pictures. Show me a little bit of gratitude.

Hairy Woodpecker

They hide on the opposite side of the feeders where I can’t see them. I have to wait for them to decide to ignore me and some days, they manage to elude me until I get tired and give up.

A beautiful Tufted Titmouse … and a surprisingly big oneToday I decided to exhume the SD card from the OMD and see what I had collected. I decided to play around with this batch. Others are less abstract. I admit it. Sometimes, I just want to play with pictures.

PROVOCATIVE? LIKE BOMBING IRAN? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #55

It’s the question of the year and this is only January.


Do you feel that Donald Trump was justified in ordering a drone strike that resulted in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in an airstrike in Baghdad last week?

Do you think Trump’s decision will lead America into a hot war with Iran?

Do you think Trump’s motives are political and self-serving?


I am essentially in almost every possible way, against war. How many wars have we had in my lifetime? I was born just after World War 2, after which there was Korea. We got out of Korea, but then came Vietnam where we lingered until we declared victory and left. We left as we always do, leaving our supposed allies to face death and destruction. Remarkably, people keep trusting us. I don’t know why they do.

War doesn’t solve anything and inevitably leads to more war. WW2 was a “moral war,” but it wouldn’t have occurred had the terms for WW1 (which was just all the old regimes of Europe having one final “go” at each other because they felt like it) not been so cruel. Every war leads to another. Which leads to a few more. Then there are wars that just break out because someone hates someone else and feels obliged to kill them en masse. Gotta love those genocidal wars.

There are no good wars. Not here, or anywhere.

As far as I can see, there will never be an end to war because we don’t want peace. We say we want peace, but we don’t act like it. Should we have killed their General? I don’t know. If we’re going to do it, we should have gone in and done a quiet assassination and slipped out silently. That is assuming that his death was in some way a good thing for this and other countries — which I’m not convinced is the case.

Will this lead to a hot war with Iran? Maybe not, but last night I was ready to call everyone I care about and say goodbye. If we’re going to get bombed, I hope they hit us dead on. Better that than a slow death by radiation. You can’t figure out what Trump will do. I don’t think he knows what he is going to do.

All of his plans are political and self-serving. I don’t think he has any friends or has loved anyone. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand honor, service, faith, or truth. He certainly doesn’t understand our Constitution, science, or language. If it was some other guy, maybe they would be thinking about why we do or don’t want a war, but this is Trump and I don’t think he believes in consequences, so he doesn’t need a reason to do whatever it is he does. He feels like doing it, so he does it. All that matters to him is being celebrated and told he is the greatest.

In my opinion, he is the greatest of all assholes. Ever.

THE BOOK WORLD AND MEMORIES THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong

I usually say I wouldn’t want to ever work again, but I got to thinking about that. I realized if I could get back my job as an editor at Doubleday? I’d do it in a heartbeat. How many jobs give you unlimited sick days, two-hour lunches, and require you to read sleazy novels during the day? And pay you for the privilege? And give you the best bunch of people as colleagues you could hope for.

Really old friends

I also had to write stuff about the books I read, but a long review was still shorter than most of the pieces I write for this blog. Even in my crumbling state of health, I could handle it.

The trouble is, the job doesn’t exist. Publishers are all corporate and conglomerated. Each is a subsection of some über corporation where books are one of many products and often, not an important product. People run publishing houses who don’t understand books. I often wonder if they actually read books.

The 1970s were wonderful years for reading. It was a tremendous period for books and book clubs and for literature. In those days, reading was entertainment. People read books and talked about them by the water cooler. If you got excited about a book, you told all your friends and they read it, too.


Before the internet.

Before cell phones.

Before cable and satellite television.

Before computers and many years before WiFi …

We had books.


Other entertainment? Of course, there were movies, but you had to see them in a movie theater. Television was there, but it had limitations. We had — in New York which was entertainment central — seven channels. Unless you had a really good antenna on the roof, you rarely got a clear picture. There was interference called “snow.” Pictures rolled — up, down, and side-to-side. Vertical and horizontal holds on your TV were designed to help control it. Sometimes, they did, but I remember many nights of giving up and turning the set off because we couldn’t get a decent picture. Meanwhile, many of us used a set of rabbit-ear antennas that worked sometimes — if the wind was blowing due west.

I spent more time trying to convince the rabbit-ears to receive a signal than watching shows.

Doubleday in Garden City, NY – I bet the building isn’t even standing today.

Not surprisingly, television wasn’t our primary source of entertainment. Instead, we read books — and we talked to each other — something we old folks continue to do. Sometimes, we had conversations that lasted for hours and in my life, occasionally ran into weeks. Blows your mind, doesn’t it? All that talking without a phone? Without texting, either.

Books were big business. If you wrote anything reasonably good, there were more than enough publishers who might be interested in printing it. I miss that world, sometimes more than I can say.

The 1970s Doubleday I remember

All of this got me thinking about how hard it is to get books published these days. So many people I know have written really good books and have never found anyone to back them. It’s rough on writers, and it’s not a great sign for the art of literature. Not only has our political world caved in, but our literary world is sliding down a long ramp to nowhere. In theory, many more books are published today because anyone can publish anything — and sell it on Amazon. All books — the great, good, mediocre, and truly awful are lumped together. Most of them are rarely read since none of them are being promoted by a publisher. This isn’t a small thing. Publishers were a huge piece of what made books great. If your publisher believed you’d written something excellent, you could count on being visible on the shelves of bookstores everywhere. You’d also be part of book club publications. People — reading people — would see your book. There were book columns and reviews — and people read them they way they read stuff on upcoming television shows today.

Of course, we are also suffering from the vanishing bookstore … a whole other subject.

A great idea followed by a well-written manuscript was just the beginning of a book’s life story. From the manuscript, publishers took books and did their best to sell them to the world. Today, all that pushing and pitching is left to authors, including those whose books typically sell well.

Old Doubleday and Company. I love those cars!

No doubt there were writers who could do the balancing act of writing, marketing, and advertising — but many authors are not very sociable. A good many are downright grumpy and a fair number are essentially inarticulate. They are not naturals to the marketing gig. Ponder this … what kind of blog do you think Faulkner … or … Eugene O’Neill … would have written?

Thinking of a blog by Eugene O’Neill give me the creeps. Not my cuppa tea.

I miss authors, publishers, book tours, and the delicious smell of a bookstore. Fresh ink and paper. I miss beautifully edited manuscripts and elegant hard-copy books in which you could smell the ink and paper as you gently cracked the cover open. Twas a heady perfume.

PINK SAILS IN THE SUNSET #9 – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Pink Sails in the Sunset – Garry Armstrong

It was an amazing sunset. It wasn’t just the western side of the sky. It was the entire sky in all four directions. There was the purple and pink end and the orange and gold section and some other almost indescribable colors — red, maroon, violet, yellow. What a display!

Both Marilyn and I were taking pictures. The sky was really awesome, as in able to strike awe in all who saw it.

The purple and pink side of the sunset sky